Reel World

Cold Heaven; The American Friend

Cold Heaven
Once you got away from the ticket windows and into the theaters, the recent San Francisco International Film Festival was an unabashed success. But a whole lot of S.F. Film Society members -- the festival's most loyal supporters, needless to say -- were furious about computer foul-ups and other snafus that made purchasing advance tickets an excruciating nightmare. While the company that was hired to run the ticket sales bore most of the responsibility, understandably that did little to cool the ire of would-be moviegoers. So as a way of clearing the air, burying the hatchet, and mending its ties with its most ardent fans, I have a modest proposal for the festival: a catered bitch session.

Imagine a cross between an annual meeting and a group therapy session. The SFIFF programmers and staff sit on the stage at the Kabuki, armed only with notepads and pens. Their constituency, meanwhile, has free rein of the microphone to vent, offer suggestions, and otherwise get more involved in the conception and execution of the festival. (Although the SFIFF aspires to be a film festival of national import and influence, and has done a solid job of finding bracing work by young European and Asian filmmakers, the cold truth is that the festival's main claim to fame is as a superior community cultural event.) After the comments from the floor are exhausted, Artistic Director Peter Scarlet could report on his trip to Cannes, with an emphasis on the high-profile foreign films that will be reaching these shores in the fall and winter. And then, after a group hug, the program would conclude with a sneak preview of, say, the Coen brothers O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark. No need to thank me; I'm here to serve.

The American Friend
Found footage and pop music have been flattened into clichés by lazy ad agencies and uninspired Hollywood filmmakers, so it's hard to imagine the stunning effect when Bruce Conner introduced those radical elements to experimental film in the late '50s. Hustle over to the de Young for "2000 B.C.: The Bruce Conner Story," an altogether wonderful show that encompasses the San Francisco artist's work in film, assemblage, photography, and other media. ... The mayor of Los Angeles declared Ifilm Day in recognition of the relocation of the Web site's headquarters from San Francisco. That's got to burn Willie Brown -- not the loss of a dozen or 20 jobs, but another mayor casting himself as the captain of the dot-com economy. If you look hard around town, you'll spot huge portraits of Hitchcock and Coppola on the sides of certain edifices, touting Apple's insipid "Think Different" ad campaign. In L.A., where everything's bigger, a single office building bears the larger-than-life visages of Capra, Coppola, Huston, Kurosawa, and Chaplin. I'm guessing Orson Welles' estate told Apple to suck eggs. ... I'm hearing rumors of layoffs at ILM, which may have to do with a downturn in commercial production (as a result of the SAG strike) or a drop-off in feature work. Lucas' mouthpieces aren't talking, other than to announce a "restructuring" of upper management at the special-effects emporium.

Michael Fox is host ofIndependent View, which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m., Saturdays around midnight, and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. on KQED (Channel 9).

 
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